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 veryhotthread  Author  Topic: Stuff & Nonsense  (Read 147689 times)
WingsofCrystal
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xx Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #4800 on: Aug 15th, 2011, 08:08am »

on Aug 14th, 2011, 08:59am, Swamprat wrote:
Times are tough. You do what you gotta do! cheesy


Dunkin' Donuts Cashier Used Drive-Thru To Offer Her 'Services,' Police Say

"Extra sugar" took on a new meaning at Dunkin' Donuts when a cashier converted a Rockaway, N.J., branch of the national chain into a veritable red light district, police say.

Melissa Redmond, 29, allegedly was using her night shifts to offer the coffee shop's customers her services as a prostitute on the side.

Redmond was nabbed Monday in what was known as "Operation Extra Sugar," according to a report in the Daily Record of Parsipanny. The incident took place at a branch of Dunkin' Donuts located just off Route 46 in northern New Jersey, some 20 minutes outside of New York City.

"I had gotten an anonymous tip," Detective Sgt. Kyle Schwarzmann told The Press. "She was a night-time employee, supposedly a very good one." (The night shift runs from 9 p.m to 5 a.m.)

The tip, which was handed over to the police six weeks ago, set in motion your classic police sting. First, Schwarzmann parked on site, and noticed that Redmond was making visits to customers' cars. On average, the trips lasted 10 to 15 minutes, he said. Policemen also pretended to be prospective johns, in the market for Redmond's extra service.


She was very inventive! grin

Good morning Swamprat.

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« Reply #4801 on: Aug 15th, 2011, 08:11am »

New York Times

August 14, 2011
U.S. Aides Believe China Examined Stealth Copter
By MARK MAZZETTI

WASHINGTON — In the days after the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, Pakistan’s intelligence service probably allowed Chinese military engineers to examine the wreckage of a stealth American helicopter that crashed during the operation, according to American officials and others familiar with the classified intelligence assessments.

Such cooperation with China would be provocative, providing further evidence of the depths of Pakistan’s anger over the Bin Laden raid, which was carried out without Pakistan’s approval. The operation, conducted in early May, also set off an escalating tit-for-tat scuffle between American and Pakistani spies.

American spy agencies have concluded that it is likely that Chinese engineers — at the invitation of Pakistani intelligence operatives — took detailed photographs of the severed tail of the Black Hawk helicopter equipped with classified technology designed to elude radar, the officials said. The members of the Navy Seals team who conducted the raid had tried to destroy the helicopter after it crashed at Bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, but the tail section of the aircraft remained largely intact.

American officials cautioned that they did not yet have definitive proof that the Chinese were allowed to visit to Abbottabad. They said that Pakistani officials had denied that they showed the advanced helicopter technology to other foreign governments. One military official said Sunday that Pakistani officials had been directly confronted about the American intelligence.

One person with knowledge of the intelligence assessments said that the American case was based mostly on intercepted conversations in which Pakistani officials discussed inviting the Chinese to the crash site. He characterized intelligence officials as being “certain” that Chinese engineers were able to photograph the helicopter and even walk away with samples of the wreckage. The tail has been shipped back to the United States, according to American officials.

Pakistan has a close military relationship with China, and large numbers of Chinese engineers work at military bases inside Pakistan. Pakistani officials have even suggested that the Chinese Navy might eventually have its own base along Pakistan’s coastline.

Several Pakistani officials reached on Sunday declined to comment. The American assessments were disclosed Sunday by The Financial Times. The newspaper cited Pakistani officials who denied the accusations.

When pictures of the helicopter’s tail emerged in the days after the Bin Laden raid, defense experts said it bore little resemblance to a standard Black Hawk helicopter. They said that the helicopter in Abbottabad appeared to have a special coating designed to elude air defenses, and that the Black Hawk’s sharp edges seemed to have been replaced with curved parts that could further confuse ground radar systems.

Pakistan’s anger about the Bin Laden operation was so intense that officials in Islamabad, the capital, hinted in news reports in May that they might allow the Chinese to see the helicopter wreckage, but it was unclear at the time whether Pakistan’s government might follow through on the veiled threats. Pakistani officials also made a high-profile trip to Beijing shortly after the Abbottabad raid, part of a not-so-subtle campaign to show the strength of Pakistan’s alliance with China amid faltering relations between Washington and Islamabad.

Meanwhile, the intelligence services of the two countries have quietly carried out their own spy games. Pakistan’s military spy service, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, arrested a group of Pakistani citizens in May who the agency suspected were working with the Central Intelligence Agency in the months leading up to the Bin Laden raid.

One of those arrested was a Pakistani doctor who had helped the C.I.A. set up a phony vaccination program in Abbottabad. The doctor had set up the vaccination scheme in the hope of gaining access to the Bin Laden compound and getting hard evidence that Bin Laden was hiding there. The doctor remains in Pakistani custody, according to American officials.

The C.I.A., for its part, has continued to carry out missile strikes inside Pakistan using armed drone aircraft, a campaign that has been tacitly blessed by Pakistani leaders but that has further aggravated relations between the C.I.A. and the ISI.

The relationship between the spy services began fraying in the months before the Bin Laden raid, after a C.I.A. contractor was charged with murder and jailed in Lahore. The contractor, Raymond A. Davis, killed two men at a crowded traffic stop in Lahore in January, in what American officials described as an act of self-defense after the two men tried to rob Mr. Davis.

Mr. Davis was eventually released from jail, but American relations with Pakistan declined steadily in subsequent weeks and sank even lower after the Bin Laden raid.

However, amid the recriminations and threats by members of Congress to cut all military aid to Pakistan, some senior members of the Obama administration have tried to dial back tensions before they do permanent damage to the shaky alliance.

Despite the headaches of an alliance marked by mutual distrust and competing agendas, the officials argue, the prospect of Washington permanently severing ties with a nuclear-armed country as volatile as Pakistan would be far more dangerous.


http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/15/world/asia/15copter.html?_r=1&ref=world

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« Reply #4802 on: Aug 15th, 2011, 08:15am »

LA Times

With approval rating at new low, Obama launches three-day bus blitz

By James Oliphant and Peter Nicholas
4:46 AM PDT, August 15, 2011
Reporting from Minneapolis

Burdened by sagging poll numbers, hamstrung by poor economic news, and trapped in Washington for much of the summer because of the debt ceiling fight, President Obama will seek to reverse his recent fortunes by hitting the open road.

Obama Monday will embark on a three-state, five-town bus tour deep in the heart of the American Midwest, hoping to tell the public—and potential voters--some small-business success stories and highlight economic development in rural areas. He’ll also be looking to rebut criticism that he’s not focused on finding solutions to bolster the flat-lining economy.

The campaign-style swing comes at a time when a new Gallup Poll shows the president sliding below a 40 % approval rating for the first time—and when Republicans appear energized by the entry of Texas Gov. Rick Perry into the 2012 presidential field, as well as the blossoming candidacy of Rep. Michele Bachmann.

Although the White House says the timing is coincidental, Obama will be visiting Iowa on the heels of Bachmann’s triumph in the GOP Straw Poll and Perry’s visit to the state, delivering a counterargument to the candidates’ incessant attacks on his handling of the economy. It should also serve as a reminder of happier times: His victory in the 2008 Iowa caucuses served as the springboard to the Democratic presidential nomination.

The tour will launch in the small town of Cannon Falls, Minn. Monday, where the president will conduct a town hall, and then continue on to small hamlets in Iowa and Illinois along the spine of the Mississippi River. Obama won all three states over John McCain in 2008, but such rural towns sit outside the president’s political comfort zone.

Still, Obama made regular stops in rural outposts during his first campaign. The trip, White House aides say, is part of an economic initiative to help such communities gain access to credit, spur agricultural innovation, and better connect to the world’s digital business infrastructure.

On Tuesday in Iowa, the president will host a rural economic forum that will be attended by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and other campaign members that will be similar to an event the White House held in Cleveland in the spring.

The president could be colliding directly with the tea-party forces that have helped disrupt his first term. When he visits two tiny towns in Illinois on Wednesday, he’ll pass through a region that sent two freshmen, Reps. Randy Hultgren and Bobby Schilling to Washington last year as part of the Republican wave.

The risk for the White House is that when many critics, including Democrats, are clamoring for Obama to do something big on the economy, a three-day jaunt down America's backroads could end up looking like just the opposite. He's also likely to hear complaints from local residents about his administration's economic and environmental policies, as well as the divisive healthcare overhaul.

The White House maintains the president will confine his remarks to the economy and will not go after his potential GOP presidential opponents. But at the very least, however, the trip should afford him a chance to renew his connection with a public that has been showing signs of increasing discontent with his administration--while perhaps reminding it of Obama the promise-laden candidate as opposed to the president who at times has appeared under siege by intransigent Republicans, disappointing economic news, and a wildly erratic stock market.

The see-sawing financial markets may provide one undercurrent of tension during the three-day tour; Bachmann, Perry, and Mitt Romney perhaps another. White House aides say not to expect a grand economic address during the trip, but Obama’s critics, which include Democrats, are watching and waiting.

“I continue to respect him greatly as a human being,’’ said Peter Buttenwieser, a major Democratic fundraiser who supports Obama’s re-election. “I consider him a friend. I’m extremely disappointed in the way in which he has conducted his presidency, above all on the jobs and economic issues.’’

Buttenwieser suggested that Obama deliver a game-changing speech on the economy on a par with the address Obama gave on race relations during the 2008 campaign.

“It has to be from the heart and it has to be both intellectual and emotional,’’ he said.

Paul Begala, a former campaign aide to Bill Clinton who now advises a political action committee, Priorities USA Action, started by two ex-Obama aides, called for “bold action.”

“The whole focus of the country for the last month has been on these terrible negotiations over the debt ceiling. That hurt everybody. He’s got to turn the page,’ Begala said. “The president can’t wave a magic wand, but he has the power to set the agenda. Now’s the time.’’


http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/la-pn-obama-midwest-bus-blitz-20110814,0,6875641.story

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« Reply #4803 on: Aug 15th, 2011, 08:18am »

Wired

Fanboys Scribe Pens Ultimate Nerd Sci-Fi Novel, Ready Player One
By Angela Watercutter
August 15, 2011 | 7:00 am
Categories: Books and Comics, movies, sci-fi

Ernie Cline is living the geek dream. The Fanboys screenwriter, who once worked in tech support to pay the bills, has turned a love of all things nerd into a full-time gig scrawling yarns about, well, all things nerd.

After he spent a roller coaster couple of years getting the Star Wars-steeped script he wrote for Fanboys made into a film, he decided his skills might be put to better use as a fiction writer.

Now, he’s on a whole new ride — releasing his first novel, Ready Player One, while simultaneously watching the book be developed for the big screen (it was optioned by Warner Bros.).

Much like Cline’s own life, Ready Player One, which hits bookstores Tuesday, has “fast-paced ride through nerdia” written all over it. But, by and large, the similarities end there.

Cline is a chill family man living in Austin, Texas. Ready Player One’s main character, Wade Watts, is a kid living in an American dystopia (Oklahoma City, circa 2044) who spends most days in an online world known as Oasis.

While Cline possesses encyclopedic knowledge of pop culture and knows about the 1980s because he lived through them, his protagonist must learn about those things through old videos and books so he can try to solve a puzzle in the Oasis that was left by its eccentric creator and, if solved, unlocks a king’s ransom.

The book is a treasure for anyone already nostalgic for the late 20th century who also loves the idea of finding Easter eggs in real life. But it’s also a great read for anyone who likes a good book, as evidenced by the dust-jacket recommendation from Sookie Stackhouse author (and unlikely fan) Charlaine Harris, a “non-gamer” who “loved every page.”

Wired.com caught up with Cline on a recent trip to San Francisco to find out what the ride’s been like.

Wired.com: Most Wired readers probably remember you from your work on Fanboys. What was that experience like?

Ernie Cline: At the time when [Wired] initially interviewed me, I thought the movie was going to be coming out at any time. That was right when we had just started the big battle with the studio over them wanting to change the ending.

What happened the rest of that year was that the movie kept getting delayed and then Star Wars fans found out they were going to change the whole plot of the movie and then there was a big nerd uprising on the internet with everyone e-mailing Harvey Weinstein and calling him nasty names. It finally got to the point where he was like, “I give up!” and gave us the movie back and allowed us to keep the original ending.

It was the craziest thing ever, but it was still really painful. Fanboys ended up being bittersweet; I was really excited to finally have my movie come out, but the end product was not what I or the original director intended. It was a disheartening experience and what led to me trying fiction.

It took 10 years for Fanboys to get made, and the end product is not what I wanted, so I thought, “Well maybe I’m not cut out to be a screenwriter after all.” The movie was a lot geekier when I originally wrote it and it got watered down. I thought, “If Hollywood is never going to let me be as nerdy as I want, because they don’t understand what I’m talking about, the only way I’m ever going to get to flex my geek muscles is in a book where I can have complete freedom.”

Wired.com: What’s happened since Fanboys?

Cline: Shortly after that, I sold my second screenplay, which was called Thundercade. That got bought by Lakeshore Entertainment, and it still hasn’t gotten made, but I made enough money off that for my family to live on for like a year. So, I decided to spend that year finishing this novel that I’d been working on off and on. I ended up finishing and selling the book in June of last year.

Wired.com: How would you describe Ready Player One?

Cline: It’s kind of like Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, but if Willy Wonka was a videogame designer. It’s about a videogame contest that this eccentric billionaire creates — this really popular version of Second Life that the whole world uses every day. He dies and leaves his fortune to whoever can unlock these videogame puzzles that he’s left behind.

Because he was kind of a Generation X kid and obsessed with ’80s pop culture and old videogames, all the puzzles have to do with geek culture and ’80s videogames and things like that. It’s basically me geeking out for about 400 pages.

Wired.com: You essentially sold the book and the movie rights at the same time, right?

Cline: Yeah, within like the span of 48 hours. There was a bidding war. I was hoping I was going to make enough to buy a new car because our Toyota Camry was falling apart. Then every publisher in New York was interested in it. We were still freaking out over what it sold for when they told us that because of the interest in the publishing world that Hollywood was interested.

A bidding war started that same night between Paramount, DreamWorks and Warner Bros. So, we didn’t get any sleep that night, and the next morning they told us that Warner Bros. had won the bidding war for the film rights. So, it was the biggest book publisher in the world on Tuesday and the biggest movie studio in the world on Wednesday. It was the most awesome, craziest 48 hours of my whole life. I’m still freaking out about it.

Wired.com: What’s the status of the movie?

Cline: I got to write the first draft of the screenplay. I had to start on that right after I finished the edits on the book and turned those in to my editor at Random House. I handed in the book and that same week I had to start on the screenplay for Warner Bros. and they wanted me to completely rework the book into a giant summer Hollywood action movie, which was like the hardest writing job of my life.

They’re using the draft of the screenplay that I wrote to find a director now. When the director comes on board it’ll either be a writer/director or that director will hire a writer to continue developing it with the studio. So I’m done.

Wired.com: Do you have a dream director for the film?

Cline: I’m a cinephile, so there are a lot of directors I would freak out over. But the names of people they’re sending it to is crazy. Because it’s Warner Bros., they’re sending it to Zack Snyder, Christopher Nolan, just people like that. If any one of those guys ends up doing it [that'd be great]. I just try to count my blessings and try not to be picky.

Wired.com: What did they want you to do to Hollywood-ize the film?

Cline: I don’t think they knew what they had bought. One of the first things they said to me was, “Can we tone down the ’80s references?” And I’m like, “What book did you guys buy? That’s what this whole story is.”

Also, Tron had just come out and Hollywood studios are very reactive to whatever just happened. And since Tron had just come out and it was very related to the ’80s and had classic videogames in it and it didn’t do as well as Disney thought it was going to do, they were all freaked out about that. They also said, “We also think that it would be good if there wasn’t anyone standing in a videogame anywhere in this movie.” And that’s what a lot of the book is about.

Hollywood thinks of a book like a salad bar. They just want to take what they want and leave the rest. They just had me change the pacing and a lot of the references had to come out.

It’s funny, you can talk about somebody re-enacting WarGames in a book or describe scenes from Blade Runner and you don’t have to pay for that, but if you do it in a movie you have to pay. So, I understand that it can’t be a direct translation or it would be insanely expensive. I worked with them as much as I could.

Wired.com: Do you have a dream actor for Wade?

Cline: I really like Jay Baruchel. He’s like 27 but when he shaves off his beard he can look like 4 years old. I can dream all day long, but it’s going to end up being whoever the director likes.

Wired.com: What about for the others?

Cline: For the older characters, I would love it if they would get someone who has some ’80s cache. Like John Cusack playing the bad guy or something.


more after the jump
http://www.wired.com/underwire/2011/08/ernie-cline-ready-player-one/all/1

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« Reply #4804 on: Aug 15th, 2011, 08:21am »

Science Daily

Effortless Sailing With Fluid Flow Cloak

ScienceDaily — Duke engineers have already shown that they can "cloak" light and sound, making objects invisible. Now, they have demonstrated the theoretical ability to significantly increase the efficiency of ships by tricking the surrounding water into staying still.

"Ships expend a great deal of energy pushing the water around them out of the way as they move forward," said Yaroslav Urzhumov, assistant research professor in electrical and computer engineering at Duke's Pratt School of Engineering. "What our cloak accomplishes is that it reduces the mass of fluid that has to be displaced to a bare minimum.

"We accomplish this by tricking the water into being perfectly still everywhere outside the cloak," Urzhumov said. "Since the water is still, there is no shear force, and you don't have to drag anything extra with your object. So, comparing a regular vessel and a cloak of the same size, the latter needs to push a much smaller volume of water, and that's where the hypothesized energy efficiency comes from."

The results of Urzhumov's analysis were published online in the journal Physical Review Letters. The research was supported by the U.S. Office of Naval Research and a Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) grant through the U.S. Army Research Office. Urzhumov works in the laboratory of David R. Smith, William Bevan Professor of electrical and computer engineering at Duke.

While the cloak postulated by Urzhumov differs from other cloaks designed to make objects seem invisible to light and sound, it follows the same basic principles -- the use of a human-made material that can alter the normal forces of nature in new ways.

In Urzhumov's fluid flow cloak, he envisions the hull of a vessel covered with porous materials -- analogous to a rigid sponge-like material -- which would be riddled with holes and passages. Strategically placed within this material would be tiny pumps, which would have the ability to push the flowing water along at various forces.

"The goal is make it so the water passing through the porous material leaves the cloak at the same speed as the water surrounding by the vessel," Urzhumov said. "In this way, the water outside the hull would appear to be still relative to the vessel, thereby greatly reducing the amount of energy needed by the vessel to push vast quantities of water out of the way as it progresses."

While the Duke invisibility cloak involved a human-made structure -- or metamaterial -- based on parallel rows of fiberglass slats etched with copper, Urzhumov envisions a different sort of metamaterial for his fluid flow cloak.

"In our case, I see this porous medium as a three-dimensional lattice, or array, of metallic plates," he said. "You can imagine a cubic lattice of wire-supported blades, which would have to be oriented properly to create drag and lift forces that depend on the flow direction. In addition, some of the cells of this array would be equipped with fluid-accelerating micro-pumps."

Urzhumov explained that when a regular vessel moves through fluid, it also pushes and displaces a volume of water that greatly exceeds the volume of the vessel itself. That is because in a viscous fluid like water, an object cannot just move a single layer of water without all others; the shear force effectively attaches an additional mass of water to the object.

"When you try to drag an object on a fishing line through water, it feels much heavier than the object itself, right?" he said. "That's because you are dragging an additional volume of water with it."

Based on this understanding of the flow cloaking phenomenon, Urzhumov believes that the energy expended by the micropumps could be significantly less than that needed to push an uncloaked vessel through the water, leading to the greatly improved efficiency.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110811162823.htm

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« Reply #4805 on: Aug 16th, 2011, 08:38am »

guess who woke up the minute I got here...........back in a bit.

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« Reply #4806 on: Aug 16th, 2011, 12:01pm »

New York Times

August 16, 2011
Fitch Ratings Keeps U.S. at Top Credit Rating
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

NEW YORK (AP) — Fitch Ratings said Tuesday it will keep its rating on U.S. debt at the highest grade, AAA, and issued a "stable" outlook, meaning it expects the rating to stay there.

That's better than the other two main ratings agencies: Moody's lists the U.S. debt at AAA but says its outlook is negative. And Standard & Poor's set off a maelstrom in the stock market last week after it took its rating on the U.S. down to the second-highest grade, AA-plus, for the first time.

In Washington, the Obama administration welcomed the announcement from Fitch but said it would be important for Congress to take the steps called for in the budget agreement.

"The Treasury Department continues to believe that Treasury securities are AAA investments. Today's report underscores the importance of Congress taking additional actions to address our long-term fiscal challenges," Treasury spokesman Anthony Coley said.

The S&P cited bickering in Congress over the debt ceiling earlier this summer, as well as the country's rising proportion of debt, for its downgrade. But Fitch said that it decided to keep its rating because the "key pillars" of U.S. creditworthiness remain intact, including its "flexible, diversified and wealthy economy."

It also said that the country's flexibility in monetary policy gives it the ability to absorb economic shocks. The dollar's central role in the world economy allows the U.S. to hold a higher proportion of debt to gross domestic product.

Fitch said it would revisit the rating after the congressional committee that is supposed to figure out how to cut government spending presents its findings, due by the end of November.

The rating, which measures the possibility that the U.S. will default on its debt, has been a hot-button issue in the past two weeks. Standard & Poor's downgrade on Aug. 5 ignited a volatile week on Wall Street, with the Dow rising or falling by at least 400 points for four days. The government and some analysts have criticized the S&P's decision, calling it unjustified and based on faulty math.

The S&P has defended the move, and some analysts have said it is a necessary wakeup call for a government that has been spending too much. The S&P said its downgrade was based on political grandstanding this summer over the debt ceiling. The S&P analysts also said they predict that the country's debt a portion of output will continue to rise.

The S&P has also pointed out that its downgrade is only to the second-highest rating, saying that the psychological effects are deeper than the practical ones.

"It's like going from indigo to navy blue," S&P analyst John Chambers said in a call after the downgrade.

Moody's assigned a negative outlook to its rating of U.S. credit on Aug. 2. Analysts there said they were uncertain how much the congressional committee will be able to agree on cutting spending.


http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2011/08/16/business/AP-US-Fitch-US-Credit-Rating.html?_r=1&hp

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« Reply #4807 on: Aug 16th, 2011, 12:03pm »

Wired

Exclusive: Pentagon Probe Will Review Every Darpa Contract
By Noah Shachtman
August 16, 2011 | 4:00 am
Categories: DarpaWatch

Since Regina Dugan became the director of Darpa, the Pentagon’s top research division has signed millions of dollars’ worth of contracts with her family firm, which in turn owes her at least a quarter-million dollars. It’s an arrangement that has raised eyebrows in the research community, and has now drawn the attention of the Defense Department’s internal auditors and investigators.

The Pentagon’s Inspector General is launching an audit of those deals — and of every other research contract Darpa has signed during Dugan’s two-year tenure. This is just “the first in a series of planned audits to review [Darpa's] contracting processes,” the Inspector General’s office promises.

The probe isn’t itself an accusation of wrongdoing; just an investigation to see if any occurred. Darpa representatives have insisted that the agency acted properly in its dealings with RedXDefense — the bomb detection firm Dugan co-founded with her father, Vince Dugan. She recused herself from any decisions involving the company, they say, and RedXDefense won its $1.7 million in research contracts from Darpa fair and square.

“At no time did Dr. Dugan participate in any dealings between the Agency and RedXDefense related to the contract,” Darpa spokesman Eric Mazzacone told Danger Room in March. (He declined to comment for this story.)

Nevertheless, the Inspector General’s office wants to take a closer look. Not only does Dugan still own tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of stock in RedXDefense; according to a financial report she filed last year, the company (now led by her father) has yet to reimburse Dugan for a “note/loan” with “no schedule of payment or guarantee of repayment.”

That’s one reason, presumably, why the IG is also launching a separate inquiry into “Regina Dugan’s continued financial and familial relations with Darpa contractor RedXDefense,” the office noted in a letter to the Project on Government Oversight, a watchdog group.

The look into Darpa’s deal-making won’t end there, however. Every research contract issued by the agency over the last two fiscal years will be reviewed, to “determine the adequacy of Darpa’s selection, award, and administration of contracts and grants,” the IG’s office wrote in a July 26 memorandum to other military agencies. So will Darpa’s relationship with airship-builder (and one-time agency contractor) Aeros, which now counts former Darpa director Tony Tether as a member of its board of advisors.

The scrutiny of Darpa’s $3 billion budget is needed, agency insiders say. Darpa gets wide latitude from the rest of the Pentagon — and from Congress — in how it hands out its contracts.

“You could pull a lot of money out of that place if you really wanted to,” a recently retired Darpa official tells Danger Room. “There really isn’t any due diligence there.”

The potential for the appearance of conflicts of interest is also quite high. Many of Darpa’s chosen research fields — pathogen detection, biomorphic robotics, brain-controlled prosthetics — are relatively small and tightknit. Any Darpa official worth his or her salt is bound to run into former co-workers while on the job.

These interactions with one-time colleagues used to be tightly proscribed. During Tony Tether’s tenure, if there was even a slight chance that a company might bid on a Darpa research project, that firm and and that program manager were disqualified to work on that particular effort. If the program manager owned stock in a defense contractor, that financial relationship had to be severed.

“With Tony, there wasn’t a little line. There was a valley. You either sell your stock [in your old firm], or there’s the door,” one former Darpa program manager says. “With Regina, things were very different.”

And not without some justification. Tether’s bright ethical guidelines had unintended consequences. If a company allowed an employee to take a sabbatical to join Darpa, the firm was essentially blocking itself from millions of dollars in agency research projects.

Under Dugan, program managers with potential ethical conflicts could designate someone else at Darpa — usually someone in a more senior position — to make decisions about their former company or university. In a speech last year, Darpa deputy director Ken Gabriel called the new conflict of interest rules “more realistic.”

One of the things that makes Darpa’s deals with RedXDefense so unusual is that those decisions weren’t passed to a more senior defense official, who would, in theory, be immune to any influence from Dugan. The decisions were left to a subordinate, who might feel all kinds of pressure to do right by the boss, and by the company run by her dad.

“These policies and practices are in place so that qualified people can come to government service and to ensure that all organizations have access to fair and open competition; neither favored nor disfavored,” Mazzacone said.

Nick Schwellenbach, director of investigations at the Project on Government Oversight, isn’t convinced.

“If I was a Darpa employee,” he says, “I wouldn’t want to be in a position of depriving my boss’ family members of a large contract.”

http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/08/pentagon-darpa-probe/

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« Reply #4808 on: Aug 16th, 2011, 12:04pm »

Science Daily

Fruit Bats Navigate With Internal Maps: Scientists Fit Bats With World's Smallest GPS Devices

ScienceDaily (Aug. 16, 2011)

GPS technology can make our travels easier and more efficient. But for many animals, the ability to successfully navigate a landscape is not just a matter of convenience -- their very survival depends on it.

Egyptian fruit bats, for instance, fly dozens of kilometers each night to feed on specific fruit trees, making the return trip the same night. To understand how the bats locate individual trees night after night, scientists attached tiny GPS devices to the bats in the first-ever comprehensive GPS-based field study of mammal navigation.

The results of this study showed that the bats carry around an internal, cognitive map of their home range, based on visual landmarks, such as lights or hills, but the study also suggests an additional,, large-scale navigational mechanism. The study, which appears August 15 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), reveals for the first time how free-ranging mammals find their way around their natural environment.

Many researchers have investigated the navigational skills of other creatures -- birds, fish, insects, lobsters, turtles, etc. -- but studies of mammalian navigation have been confined to the laboratory. Unfortunately, lab studies cannot duplicate the large, complex landscapes an animal must navigate in the natural world.

The new GPS-based method gives researchers the best of both worlds. This new approach to studying bat navigation was developed by a group of researchers from several institutions and disciplines: ecologists studying movements of animals in the wild: Ph.D. student Asaf Tsoar from the Movement Ecology Lab and his supervisor Prof. Ran Nathan from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; a neurobiologist studying the neural basis of navigation: Dr. Nachum Ulanovsky of the Weizmann Institute, in collaboration with Giacomo Dell'Omo of Ornis Italica, Italy, and Alexei Vyssotski of ETH Zurich, Switzerland.

In this collaborative effort, the team developed miniaturized GPS devices -- each weighing around 10 grams and containing tiny GPS receivers, in addition to a memory logger and battery. They used the devices to track the movements of Egyptian fruit bats (Rousettus aegyptiacus) over several consecutive nights.

At first, the researchers collected data as the bats took flight each night from a cave near the Israeli city of Beit Shemesh. These bats flew in a straight line at speeds of 40 km an hour and more and at elevations of hundreds of meters to trees that were about 12 to 25 km from their cave.

They went to the same trees, night after night, even bypassing apparently identical trees that were nearer to home. The data showed that bats' navigational abilities rival those of homing pigeons.

The fact that the bats bypassed similar fruit trees to get to their favorite feeding site ruled out smell as their main navigational aid, while an analysis of the data suggested that the bats were not simply "beaconing" on any visual or other individual cue.

To investigate further, the scientists took some of the bats to a new area in the desert, 44 kilometers south of their normal range. Some bats were released at dusk; others were fed in the new area and released just before dawn. Those released first had no trouble navigating to their favorite fruit trees, returning straight back to their caves afterward. Those who were fed first simply made a beeline back to the cave once they were released.

Based on a spatial model analysis, and after discussions with pilots, it appeared, though, that the bats could have seen some familiar visual landmarks -- hills or the lights of human settlements -- from this release site near Beersheba in southern Israel.

To prevent the bats from using visual landmarks to guide them, the researchers removed the bats even further south, to a natural depression that limited their field of vision: the Large Crater, located some 84 km south of their cave. Here, some of the bats were released from a hilltop at the edge of the crater and others were let go at the crater's bottom.

Despite the distance, those flying from the hilltop oriented themselves right away and flew back to the cave. The bats inside the crater, however, appeared disoriented, wandering for quite a while before finding their way out of the crater and back to the cave. This confirmed the idea that bats use visual information from a "bird's eye view" to construct a cognitive map of a wide area. Navigational cues include these distant landmarks, and the scientists believe that the bats most likely compute their own location by employing a form of triangulation based on the different azimuths to known distant landmarks.

Because most of the bats released in the crater, when they finally left, exited to the north (the direction of home), Tsoar, Nathan and Ulanovsky believe that the bats may have an additional, back-up navigational mechanism to help when landmarks are unreliable. This mechanism might involve sensing the magnetic fields or directional odors carried on the sea breeze from the Mediterranean to the Negev Desert.

Although lab experiments based on distances of a meter or two had hinted at the existence of an internal map for navigation, this study is the first to show that such mammals as fruit bats use these maps to find their way around areas 100 km in size.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110815113541.htm

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« Reply #4809 on: Aug 16th, 2011, 12:10pm »

.





Sherlock Holmes 2: A Game of Shadows Trailer 2011 HD
In theaters: December 16th, 2011

~

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« Reply #4810 on: Aug 16th, 2011, 6:40pm »

Let's go fishing!


http://www.arkive.org/osprey/pandion-haliaetus/video-00.html
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« Reply #4811 on: Aug 17th, 2011, 08:22am »

on Aug 16th, 2011, 6:40pm, Swamprat wrote:
Let's go fishing!


http://www.arkive.org/osprey/pandion-haliaetus/video-00.html


That Osprey is something else!
Thanks Swamprat.
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« Reply #4812 on: Aug 17th, 2011, 08:27am »

New York Times

August 16, 2011
Obama Presses His Case in Crucial Iowa, but Perry Is Close on His Heels
By MARK LANDLER and JEFF ZELENY

PEOSTA, Iowa — President Obama pulled up to a bucolic community college here in his $1.1 million black armored bus on Tuesday and spent much of the day closeted in a conference with farmers and small-business owners, hoping to sell them on his message that he could revive the listless job market.

Eleven miles away, a more colorful, less-fortified campaign bus deposited Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, the newest Republican presidential candidate, in Dubuque, where he told another audience of business leaders over lunch, “I guess we’ve kind of got competing job tours, if you want to know the truth of the matter.”

The governor was quick to contrast his style with that of the president.

“His approach is to study these things,” Mr. Perry said. “We know what the problem is. We’re being overtaxed, overregulated and over-litigated.”

Earlier, he said he wanted to restore military respect for the commander in chief.

Mr. Obama brushed off the remarks in an interview with CNN as beginner’s errors. But the spectacle of a beleaguered president and a swaggering new rival circling each other in the cornfields of Iowa vividly illustrated the contours of 2012 election. And it may signal battles to come, as Mr. Obama fights to hold on to the region that put him on a path to victory in 2008.

The president faces a new, more challenging political and economic landscape in the Midwestern states that formed an early and deep core of support during his primary and general election campaigns. Unemployment has increased across the region, while his approval ratings in Iowa have sagged to below 50 percent.

In Peosta, on the second day of the three-day bus tour of Iowa, Minnesota and Illinois, Mr. Obama defended his economic record and fired back at Republicans in Congress. He said they had stymied his efforts to revive the economy by refusing to put “country ahead of party.”

“I don’t care whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, independent, if you’re not registered with any party,” he said before the conference. “I need your help sending a message to Congress that it’s time to put the politics aside and get something done.”

The visit by Mr. Perry to this patch of northeast Iowa — terrain that is often more fertile for Democrats — may have represented a bit of gamesmanship by the governor, who is seeking a bold start to his own campaign. But it was also a reminder of the president’s changed political fortunes.

“We don’t have to settle for our current circumstances,” Mr. Perry said. “We have the power to change that.”

The president has no nominating battle of his own to worry about, though his advisers are closely following the Republican debate under way here. For months, the party’s candidates have delivered a relentless day-by-day pounding of Mr. Obama, and his trip was intended to counterbalance that message.

The swath of the Midwest that Mr. Obama has visited in the last week — he went to Michigan last week — are four states that he easily won in 2008. But his popularity has flagged there, while Republican confidence has swelled after the party’s midterm election gains last year in local, state and federal offices.

If the president is fighting hard to hold these states next year, Democratic analysts here say, his bid for re-election could be significantly complicated and the race would represent more of a traditional battleground map, rather than the expanded set of states that propelled him to victory .

Mr. Obama’s senior aides insist that as difficult a situation as Mr. Obama faces, the Republican Party is in worse shape, with high disapproval ratings in the region. The White House scheduled the bus tour on the heels of the biggest burst of activity yet in the Republican campaign, with a televised debate last week, and both the Iowa straw poll and the addition of Mr. Perry to the race on Saturday.

“The administration tells us we’re in a recovery,” Mr. Perry said as his bus stopped at a roofing company in Cedar Rapids and a truck stop in Walcott, in addition to Dubuque. “It sure doesn’t feel like a recovery.”

Mr. Obama acknowledged that the economy continues to sputter, but he blamed bad luck compounded by political dysfunction in Washington. As part of the White House-sponsored rural economic forum, he announced initiatives to help lift rural areas, like doubling government investment in small businesses and increasing job search and training programs for people in rural areas.

The president said his administration was trying to make agriculture an economic driver, speaking earnestly of cattle grazing next to fields of solar panels and crops used in biofuels. He drew laughter when he praised a former state senator “who’s helping farms manage manure in creative ways.”

With no grand plans to offer, Mr. Obama is framing the race not as a referendum on his record but as a choice between competing visions for the country — “big and bold and generous,” he said, or “cramped” and one that “believes in a winner-take-all economy in which everyone else is left out in the cold.”

As the two men campaigned near each other, White House aides were not above their own digs at Mr. Perry, including his threat in 2009 that Texas might leave the United States.

“We should be able to disagree on important issues without questioning each other’s patriotism,” said the White House spokesman, Jay Carney. “We may disagree with our political opponents, but we certainly believe they are all patriots, even those who wanted to secede from the union.”


http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/17/us/politics/17campaign.html?_r=1&hp

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« Reply #4813 on: Aug 17th, 2011, 12:06pm »

LA Times

Bomb plot targeting Tampa school foiled, police say
August 17, 2011 | 9:19 am

An expelled student has been arrested in connection with a plan to blow up his school in Tampa, Fla., on the first day of class, authorities said Wednesday.

In televised comments, Police Chief Jane Castor identified the suspect as Jared Cano, 17, who had planned to place an explosive device at Freedom High School in Hillsborough County.

“We were able to foil a potentially catastrophic event the likes of which the city of Tampa has never seen,” Castor said at a news conference.

The police chief said that authorities had received a tip from an unidentified source about the suspect and raided his home on Tuesday.

Police recovered explosive materials and what was described as a manifesto detailing a step-by-step attack plan on targets at the school, Castor said. The suspect had hoped to kill approximately 30 students and two administrators, she added.

Cano, who appeared in court Wednesday morning, faces felony charges of possessing bomb-making materials; cultivating marijuana; possession of drug paraphernalia; possession of marijuana; and threatening to throw, project, place or discharge a destructive device, according to police.

He had recently been expelled from the school, where classes are scheduled to resume next week.

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/nationnow/2011/08/tampa-school-bombing-arrest-.html

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« Reply #4814 on: Aug 17th, 2011, 12:16pm »

Wired

Bad Eyes Keep Unmanned Infantry Out of the Fight
By Noah Shachtman
August 17, 2011 | 8:24 am | Categories: Drones


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The robots were ready. Their weapons were primed. The battle was raging, and in need of new infantrymen — even if those troops weren’t necessarily human.

But in the summer of 2007, the U.S. Army decided not to send its trio of armed robots onto the streets of Baghdad. Partially, it was out of safety fears; no one wanted the blue screen of death to actually become lethal. Partially, it was a nod to appearances; a robot grunt shooting a little kid would have been a public relations disaster.

But there were technical reasons, too — reasons that continue to plague U.S. development of ground robots, and may hamper the development of the unmanned infantry for years to come. Communications between the robot and its human operator remain spotty, at best. The machine still isn’t particularly good at executing orders on his own. Perhaps most importantly, the robots have poor eyesight; the machines still can’t see as far as they can shoot.

“If I’ve got a robot with a machine gun that’s got a max range of 800 meters, and a camera that can only see a couple meters, well, that’s a problem,” Lt. Col. Stewart Hatfield, chief of the lethality branch of the U.S. Army Capabilities Integration Center, told an audience at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International conference in Washington on Tuesday. (Full disclosure: I moderated a panel of my own there, as well.)

“Are we gonna get to the point of a Terminator in the [infantry] squad?” Hatfield asked. “Maybe. But we’ve got a long way to go in terms of trust and confidence and autonomy.”

The U.S. military is looking give munitions to more and more unmanned aerial vehicles; even the relatively-small Shadow drone is getting armed. These UAVs have, in many ways, become replacements for more conventional forces; just look at the drone war over Pakistan. On the ground, it’s a different story. The Defense Department continues to be gung-ho about ground robots for reconnaissance and bomb-handling. But weaponizing those ‘bots? It’ll be years and years before the Pentagon is ready to seriously pursue that.

At one time, the Marines had their own formal “requirement” — an official statement of military need — for a weapons-toting robot. The Corps filled it with a fearsome, grenade-launching machine called Gladiator (pictured above). The robot could deal out all sorts of destruction. But not necessarily with any confidence: “the optics didn’t work,”said James Lasswell, with the Marine Cops Warfighting Lab. As a result, the program was cancelled, and now, “there’s no requirement for an armed robot.”

There’s also the question of control. Ground robots have become easier for people to remotely operate; many ‘bots now rely on an XBox-style controller. But a human still has to work the d-pad in order for the machine to go anywhere. Without hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of advanced sensors, robots still have a tough time seeing and navigating uneven terrain. Which means you can’t just give Johnny Five an order, and he’ll carry it out.

In other words, ground robots, as currently configured, don’t help the military get its job done with fewer soldiers. They don’t save the military money, either. No wonder the Pentagon isn’t particularly excited about mechanical grunts.

“It’s a burden on the infantry,” Lasswell said. “The problem is not the lethality issue. It’s in control of the [robot's] movement.”

On the other hand, ground robots are proven life-savers; ask any bomb squad technician, who now can dismantle an explosive by moving a joystick, instead of standing over the thing himself. That’s one of the the reasons why Ed Godere, with the robot-maker Qinetiq North America, believes that America has a “moral obligation” to field these unmanned infantrymen. “If the capability exists, we should deploy it.”

A remotely-operated, gun-toting ‘bot gives the flesh-and-blood soldier some distance from the battlefield — allowing him to make decisions without being scared or nervous. That “emotional environment,” Godere argued, “is a bigger threat than an armed robot.”

Godere is hardly an impartial observer, of course. His company made those weaponized robots that were shipped to Iraq in 2007, and Qinetiq’s machines continue to be the robots of choice for many military bomb squads.

So Godere knows his robots’ limitations. One of the biggest continues to be communications between human and machine. Radio frequency jammers are among the many things that continue to cause interference. Plus, the flesh-and-blood operator has to be within “line of sight” of his radio-controlled robot. That means if a bomb-bot has to go into a culvert to hunt for an explosive, the soldier has to hover over it — and put himself right in the blast radius.

Ground robots has proven themselves to be invaluable to troops in places like Afghanistan. But they won’t be replacing those people any time soon.

http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/08/bad-eyes-keep-unmanned-infantry-out-of-the-fight/

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